My feet are funny shaped. At some point in college I participated in my first foot washing in which I found myself keenly aware that my feet were not so beautiful rather then brought the good news or not. I knew that wasn’t the point but the human inside of me couldn’t quite get past it.
I can remember the thrill of NEW shoes for school each year. I would go with my Mom on a special shopping trip before school started. We would go to Stride Rite , The Navy Exchange or JC Penny’s and we would find sneakers and then a pair School/church shoes. My all time favorite was a pair of black Mary Janes that had faint embroidery on the toe of tic-tac-toe in light green and red. I got them just in time to start 2nd Grade. This was also the phase where I refused to wear pants, only dresses. I would accept leggings if it was cold out of necessity. So there I was in my early 90s bright colored dress and leggings and black Mary Janes. In hindsight, sort of dorky but at the time those little shoes made me feel so grown up.
Somewhere around the age of 9 or 10 when my growth plates were bending in unfortunate directions and I was coming to grips with the reality of chronic pain. Shoes started being a source of great angst. This was also the time when shoes were changing and no longer was it cool enough to wear my black Mary Janes or My Little Pony Sneakers. No longer could I wear what my classmates wore. All the girls were wearing jelly shoes or canvas shoes with no support. We would go to shoe store after shoe store, nothing would fit except for Velcro sort of sneakers that the kindergarteners were wearing and not the middle schoolers.
I went through a combat boot phase in sixth grade. They were a statement and in middle school that seems to be the goal of foot wear. But they also offered my poor ankles some support. This again in hindsight was a fashion low point of my life in which I wore Christian T-shirts (that said things like Got Jesus?) and baggy jeans and combat boots. One of the security guards who drove me around in the golf cart to band and lunch (which were a bit of a hike) commented that my choice foot wear was probably not the best thing for my feet. I was horrified being a Type-A people please-er of adults in my world. Thus ended the combat boot stage. Looking back, he probably did me a favor.
In high school, they started introducing the concept of FORMAL WEAR. I knew I was in deep trouble the first time I went shopping for shoes for my first prom. Strapy, stringy, heeled plastic things that cost 70 dollars and were a tibia fracture waiting to happen. My sweet mother dyed ballet slippers for me. They had no support but they matched my dress. I survived without any ER visits. Then there was the uncovered shoulder ISSUE (previously described) in which I showed my keloided scars to the world. I was not a fan. As if I needed to be more of a freak show.
I then went through an extended phase where I just decided I hated dressing up. Sad thinking that in elementary school, I wanted to dress up and be girly EVERY DAY. I decided I was going to be a hippee who wore peasant boluses, carpi pants or longish skirts and grow my hair (already longer than most girls) longer. This sustained me through the beginnings of college where I at least in part to thanks my mother and sister switched the hippee skirts for cuter knee length numbers for the Carolina sunshine.
I vividly remember kicking and screaming my junior year of college when all my friends and I decided to go to the Non-Greek formal. My roommates had to nearly hold me down to put my hair up and do my make up. WE have pictures and evidence of this. I wore mary janes that I also wore to interview for medical school in. As for interviews, I was so grateful for the stylish gray paint suit for interviews. my grandmother and I found in an expensive store in the big Mall in Norfolk that covered most of my shoes and all of my shoulders.
Then came weddings. It was prom on steroids except now the pictures will actually matter beyond the age of 18, someone will be looking at them for the next 50 years. And those people are my closest friends. The first wedding I was in had brown dresses which while I did not love, I loved that I could wear small brown flats without concern. Then I was in two weddings where I was thankfully allowed to wear black and red and thus black flats.
In medical school everyone got cute Danskos and such for the wards. None of which I could get my feet in. I became mildly obessessed with KEEN shoes. Black and Brown Mary Janes that I wore to pieces in Kenyan Mud. I wore black chaco sandals to my doctorate hooding partly by accident (left my black flats in the car) and partly out of sheer spite of professional shoe wear.
This was also the stage my mother started buying me pedicures, rather out of pity or her desire to make me slightly less of a hippee, I initialy balked and then realized that they were sort of amazing and gave in.
Then came this year. Summer wedding. Yellow dress. My big toe on the left has this gout like bunion on the metatarsal joint that makes even ballet flats uncomfortable. Again the strappy, string, heeled things are going to be a disaster. My friend tells me you can wear anything but CHACOS. I go to the comfortable shoe store here and to my horror the only thing they have is a pair of brown Chaco flip flops. I was post call, on my way home for the weekend which included a dress fitting. I was out of time. So I bought them. They didn’t look like CHACOs. They look liked brown flip flops. 20 minutes later I was already regretting spending so much money on ugly flip flops. My Southern Bell (on occasion) mother gritted her teeth when she saw them. She would later tell me that she had already decided that there was NO WAY I was walking down the aisle in those horrible shoes. I reminded her that at least they were not combat boots. I got fitted for the dress in the shoes. And then promptly returned them when I got back to OHIO.
I decided at this point I was going to go bare foot. Meanwhile, my PT here when I got my initial post op eval was MORTIFIED that I made it through life so long without orthotics. I told her I had PTSD from such things as a child. She chided me, throwing the whole MD thing at me. I relented and found she was right my feet felt better. On the up side, I recently discovered that I could wear wedges when I was given a pair of Allergia shoes for work. I loved them so much I bought a second pair in another color. For the first time in my life, people complemented me on my foot wear! I felt strangely like I had in second grade over those dorky tic-tac toe mary janes! So proud and grown up. Oddly, one would think I would get past this, not so much.
With this in mind, I prepared myself mentally for another go shopping again to look at spring wedding shoes. There had to be something out there, if I could find professional shoes that were NOT so bad, maybe there was hope. One pretty spring afternoon walk resulted in the purchase of a somewhat NOT awful pair of sparkly sandals with a slight wedge. My mother approved via cell phone pictures!!! Even my bunion approved with the adjustable straps. I breathed a sign of relief that the pain of shoe buying was over for another year. Already plotting that I could wear the SAME shoes for the Indian wedding I am scheduled to be in next Spring. Maybe I can make it two years if I didn’t wear them in Africa.
As I walked out the of shoe store, I looked down at my feet And I smiled, you know they are funny shaped and they cant wear shoes to save their little soles. But they have grown on me. We’ve been through a lot together. They have gotten me where I have wanted to go, where I have needed to go without cartilage and against the laws of bio-mechanics. Yes they are calloused, crooked and lumpy but they also tell my story with their strange contours. They tell a story of faithfulness even in the mist of suffering. And maybe that is the point. Maybe my feet are here to teach me about Grace. Maybe I have beautiful feet that tell a beautiful story after all.